Notes from Abdelkader’s Day with the Cup

Tuesday I was lucky enough to be allowed to tag along to Justin Abdelkader‘s private party with the Stanley Cup. Some people in my family are friends with people in his family and it worked out that I was able to go to the party with them.

A handful of photos are posted over in the multimedia section.

A few of my thoughts on what I saw of Justin’s day with the Cup…

It was really kind of surreal for me because the event was held at Justin’s parents’ house, less than a mile from my grandparents’ house in a neighborhood we used to drive through looking at Christmas lights when I was a kid. We see the Cup all the time at events and in major venues but having time with the Cup allows players to take it back to the neighborhoods where they grew up. I don’t think it struck me just how cool that is until we got there.

If it weren’t for the sign on the garage door pointing people to the back yard with the caption “Lord Stanley,” this could have passed for a birthday or graduation party from the street. Even out back it was incredibly low-key save for the giant silver trophy and the mob of people around it waiting for a photo op.

From the time we arrived until the time the Cup departed for Detroit and Nicklas Lidstrom‘s dinner party, Justin stayed with it, posing for photos with friends and family (and the occasional family of friends of the family). He lifted the Cup for people to drink from and carried it around for small children to have their photo taken with. He was supposed to take a break at some point but never did so that people could get all of their pictures in.

The ability to have an event like this is one of the things that makes the NHL special. With everything that’s wrong with the league, it’s still the only one in the world where a guy who played only two games all season and was still in college at the start of the year can share his team’s success like this. That’s just amazing to me.

Sweater Numbers, Round Two

I just caught that RWC updated their camp roster again, this time with new player numbers.

Stephen Johnston has #71, not the #52 previously reported, so it looks like Jonathan Ericsson will be keeping that number. Free-agent tryout Kyle Deck has the #2 that appeared on Ericsson’s truck in the Stanley Cup parade.

Justin Abdelkader keeps the #8 that he inherited from Matt Ellis last season and Mattias Ritola keeps #42.

So far it doesn’t look like anyone expected to be on the Detroit roster at the start of the season will be changing. I had expected Darren Helm to switch to the open #15 but that’s been given to try-out Martin Ondrej.

Sweater Number Stuff, Camp Edition

Malik pointed out that RWC has their annual training camp report up and running and has posted Detroit’s roster for the pre-camp prospects tournament.

Being a sweater numberphile, I look forward to RWC’s training camp rosters because they show which players will get which numbers. Players typically keep the same number throughout camp and the ones expected to compete for roster spots carry their numbers into the regular season.

As of this writing, center Stephen Johnston is the only player assigned a number, the #52 worn last season by Jonathan Ericsson. This likely means that Ericsson will be switching numbers for the upcoming season.

Ericsson wore #52 when he skated onto the ice with the rest of the Black Aces after Game Six of last spring’s Stanley Cup Finals but the truck carrying him and Justin Abdelkader in the Red Wings’ championship parade bore Abdelkader’s #8 and #2. We’ll see if that switch (along with any others) is being made in the next few weeks.

Edit (10:10 PM): RWC says that the number listing was an error. We’ll see if the #2 on Ericsson’s parade truck was also an error.

Helm in for Hartigan in Game Five

Darren Helm will replace Mark Hartigan on the Red Wings’ fourth line in Game Five tonight.

“Really excited and nervous at the same time,” Helm said. “There’s a lot of young guys up, being one of the first guys to jump in definitely means a lot to me, gives me some confidence that they believe in me.”

Mike Babcock had previously said he had no worries about playing Helm or Justin Abdelkader in playoff games, as they’ve been in high-pressure situations before (Helm in the World Junior Championships and Memorial Cup, Abdelkader in the Frozen Four).

I would have gone with Abdelkader but Helm’s not a bad move either.

Kopecky Out for Season

Tomas Kopecky is out for four-to-six months, having suffered a torn ACL and a sprained MCL in a collision with Manny Malhotra of Columbus Thursday night.

“It’s disappointing for us, but it’s really disappointing for him after missing most of the playoffs last year,” Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. “He was starting to get more ice time and you could see his confidence growing.”

With Kopecky out, Holland will sign Justin Abdelkader to an entry-level deal on Friday and the former Michigan State star will remain with the team throughout the playoffs. Abdelkader made his Red Wings debut against the Blue Jackets and took on many of Kopecky’s minutes after the third-period injury.

Red Wings’ Rally Clinches Presidents’ Trophy

The Detroit Red Wings scored twice in the final 3:27 Thursday night, rebounding from down 2-1 to earn a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The win clinched their fourth Presidents’ Trophy in the past six seasons and sixth overall. No other team has won the award more than twice.

Johan Franzen tied the game on a Red Wings’ power play with 3:27 left in the third, putting home the rebound of a Nicklas Lidstrom shot from the blue line.

With 12 seconds left, Henrik Zetterberg gave the Red Wings their lone lead. Columbus netmnder Pascal Leclaire tried to play the puck on a dump in but it slipped past him as Zetterberg raced in. Zetterberg got to the puck behind the net before Leclaire could get back between the pipes, and the Swede’s backhand shot banked off of the goalie and into the net.

The Blue Jackets had scored first when Ron Hainsey scored on the power play at 7:13 of the second. After a fight for the puck on the right wing, Hainsey was left wide open acorss the ice for a blast past Dominik Hasek‘s glove.

Mark Hartigan evened things up 2:30 later, banging the rebound of a Niklas Kronwall shot past Leclaire.

Aaron Rome put Columbus back out in front before the Detroit comeback, scoring at 4:05 of the third on a blast from the blue line that slipped through Hasek.

Hasek made 20 saves on 22 shots on the night, with Leclaire stopping 36 of 39 attempts.

Justin Abdelkader made his Red Wings debut, in for the injured Kirk MaltbyTomas Kopecky left the game early in the third period with a knee injury.

More on Abdelkader’s Signing

Just got a few more details on Justin Abdelkader‘s coming stint with the Red Wings…

He’s expected to play tonight with Detroit before splitting the weekend with the Red Wings and Griffins, playing for Grand Rapids on Saturday before finishing the season with the Red Wings on Sunday. Since his amateur try-out is only for one game, this means he must be about to sign an entry-level pro deal.

The entry-level deal would be for three years, no idea what kind of money it would involve.

Abdelkader Joins Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings have signed forward Justin Abdelkader to an amateur tryout contract, making him available to play tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Muskegon native was Detroit’s 2005 second-round draft pick. He has played three seasons for the Michigan State Spartans, scoring the game-winning goal late in the third period of the 2007 NCAA Championship game.

By signing with the Red Wings, Abdelkader will forego his remaining season of eligiblity with the Spartans.

Abdelkader’s signing comes with Kirk Maltby unable to play due to an unspecified injury.

Red Wings’ assistant general manager Jim Nill said that the team is attempting to sign Abdelkader to a three-year entry-level deal. He must be signed by Saturday to be eligible for the playoffs.

Lerg, Abdelkader Lead Spartans to National Championship

Detroit Red Wings prospect Justin Abdelkader scored with just 18.9 seconds remaining and goaltender Jeff Lerg made several key saves as the Michigan State Spartans claimed the university’s third National Championship with a 3-1 win over the Boston College Eagles.

“Jeff Lerg has been our MVP all season and he showed why tonight,” Abdelkader said.

The victory for MSU ended a 13-game Boston College winning streak.

Abdelkader’s goal gave the Spartans their first lead of the game and snapped a personal eight-game scoring slump.

After Abdelkader rang a shot off the crossbar, MSU held the puck deep in the Eagles’ zone. Tim Kennedy got the puck behind the net and threw it out front to Abdelkader, who banged it past BC netminder Cory Schneider from the slot.

Chris Mueller added an empty-net goal with 1.2 seconds remaining, wrapping up the win for the underdog Spartans.

“What a gritty group of kids,” said MSU head coach Rick Comley.

Boston College had opened the scoring when a Brock Bradford shot from the right circle deflected off the leg od Brian Boyle before hitting Lerg’s glove and going into the top of the net at 6:50 of the second period.

The Spartans tied things up at 9:53 of the first period, when Abdelkader tied his man up on a faceoff in the neutral zone and Tim Kennedy jumped in to pick up the puck. He raced into the Eagles’ zone and wristed a shot from the left side of the slot past Schneider.

Abdelkader was voted the MVP of the finals after the game.

Life at MSU ‘Busy’ for Wings Prospect Abdelkader

Muskegon native Justin Abdelkader isn’t your typical freshman at Michigan State University.

Most first-year college students didn’t spend their senior year of high school living almost 400 miles from home, traveling around the Midwest United States playing in the United States Hockey League, preparing to make the jump from high school hockey to the NCAA. Most freshmen weren’t named Michigan’s Mr. Hockey as the state’s top high school hockey player in their junior seasons.

Abdelkader was.

At the July 30th NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings made him their second round selection with the forty-second overall pick. Since then, things have gotten very busy for the 6’1″, 195 lbs. center.

Before even arriving at MSU’s East Lansing campus, Abdelkader spent a week in early August in Lake Placid, NY, at the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp. He was one of 43 players vying for a spot on the 2006 US National Junior team that will compete in the World Junior Championships this winter.

“Every guy out there was quality.” Abdelkader said of the players at Lake Placid. “That’s what I liked about it, the competition.”

Since getting to MSU, Abdelkader has been kept busy.

“It’s been kinda hectic, with all the meetings we’ve had. I kinda like the schedule better than the high school schedule.”

He admitted that he’s learned to go to bed early every day, so he doesn’t get worn out, and that the NCAA-mandated study periods take up “a lot of your time.”

Abdelkader wasn’t originally planning to be in East Lansing this fall. He was going to spend a second season with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders until discussions with his coaches convinced him he was ready to make the jump to the next level. Once that was decided, MSU was the obvious choice of schools, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both MSU alumni.

He understands that, although he’s been drafted by the Wings, he’s not ready for the big time just yet. He cites faceoffs as a skill he could improve on and says that his role with the Spartans will be to “provide some energy and play [his] game.”

“I’m just thrilled for the opportunity to be drafted by the Red Wings. Being drafted high is just a number but I realize what I have to do and how hard it’s going to be to make it to the next level.”

For now, he’ll focus on his studies and the MSU season and wait to hear back from Team USA.

“I thought I played well, I thought I played my game. Hopefully they saw some good things in me.”

Abdelkader makes one guarantee to fans of the Spartans, Griffins, Red Wings, and any other team that he might play with on his way to, hopefully, the NHL:

“I feel like I’m a player that, you know, brings my lunch pail every day to work. I’ll go to work every day.”